Quick Tips to Improve Mental Health Reporting

Tips for Reporting on Suicide

Copycat/ Suicide Contagion is real. Research shows that the incidence of suicide increases following news coverage of suicide. The following guidelines are suggested to minimize copycat attempts:

  • Refrain from using photographs of grieving relatives and friends when a suicide has occurred. Photographs might encourage someone contemplating suicide to act as a way to get attention or get back at someone, creating a dangerous copycat effect.  Youth are especially vulnerable to these effects.
  • Do not report the method or place of suicide in detail.  Exposure to suicide methods, including photographs, can encourage imitation among vulnerable individuals. 
  • Do not portray suicide as a heroic or romantic result of a single event or cause.  This obscures the long and painful process that results in completing suicide.  Over 90 percent of suicide victims have a significant psychiatric illness at the time of their death.
  • Always include information about crisis intervention services in the area and a referral phone number.
  • Do not use suicide in headlines, even when they take place in public.  This unnecessarily dramatizes the event and shifts the focus from the tragic loss of life.  There are exceptions, as in the term “suicide bomber” when reporting on terrorist activities.
  • For current, comprehensive Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide please see: http://reportingonsuicide.org/